I’m proud to have been invited to participate in the Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop today! My contribution, Royal Assassin, is taken from my short story compilation, Dragon Kin and other fantasy stories.
The best part? Readers not only get to read a free story from me, but can also sink their teeth into free stories from multiple other authors today! Without further waffle… enjoy!
The black-cloaked man stood in the doorway shrouded in shadows as the two guards passed by a few feet away. The dark-haired man waited for them to pass, then stepped into the passage and crept to the next doorway a few paces away, which he stepped into. Just then, the next two guards rounded the corner, and the man waited for these to pass, too.
The long passage leading down to the castle dungeons was patrolled by guard pairs, each only just out of sight of the others. The passage wound around the dungeons and was impossible to sneak into because of the clever positioning of guard patrols. The doorway he stood in led to the guards’ sleeping quarters, as did each doorway off this passage. Only a fool would risk hiding there, for the guards changed shifts at irregular intervals that only the king had knowledge of, and any intruder risked quick discovery and capture, since there was no way out unless you went past the guards.
The man drew his cloak snugly around his face – it wouldn’t do for anyone to recognise him if he happened to be spotted, though he doubted he would be. He moved this way, in and out of doorways, until he reached the main entrance to the dungeons. Here, he stepped into the room beyond the shadowy doorway and pressed his back against the wall. Sleeping guards snored softly in their beds. Two guards’ footsteps came past the door outside. The man knew they would enter a room three doors down the passage, and two from inside that room would replace them. It was the king’s clever idea of a shift change and would foil most intruders… but not the black-cloaked man.
The main dungeon door creaked open and three sets of footsteps came past – the next phase of the shift change. The guard room would be empty for about twenty seconds. The man slipped into the passage and ducked into the guard room a few paces away, where he slunk into the shadows behind a large suit of ornamental armour. Footsteps approached and three guards entered the room. Two positioned themselves on either side of the doorway, while the third walked straight through the room and passed under the archway on the other side. He would patrol the cells, then come back and take position next to the door while one of his fellow guards patrolled the cells next. The king had tight security, second to none in the land – he had to, since his enemies were also second to none.
The man was pleased that the guards were doing their jobs properly – it meant his evening would go as planned, which gave him some comfort considering the horrific deed he’d come to do. Now he would have to wait for an hour before the next guard change, when he’d be able to slip unseen into the dungeons and get to the cell that was his destination. All those hours of meditation his mother had insisted on as a boy would pay off tonight.
Exactly an hour later, the three guards filed out of the room, and the black-clad man emerged from the shadows and stole into the next passage. He had no more than sixty seconds before the next guard would patrol the cell-lined passage. In those sixty seconds, he would assassinate the latest addition to the dungeons, a young blacksmith charged with forging weapons for the king’s most brutal and powerful enemy, King Jeffrey from the neighbouring kingdom. Once the deed was done, he would slip away into a secret tunnel only he knew existed, which led straight to the royal bedchamber. The assassination would give him no pleasure, but it was a necessity if the queen’s reputation was to be protected.
At sunrise, the blacksmith was due a hearing with the king, where the black-clad man was certain he would give up his accomplices – one of whom the king already knew was the queen. She would be dealt with in due course, but, if the king’s enemies and people knew his queen had betrayed him, the kingdom would fall to chaos and the king would be a laughing stock. The blacksmith’s death would be a mystery and the guards would be investigated, but none would be found guilty – the black-clad man would make sure of that.
He stopped outside the second to last cell, which held the blacksmith. He produced a key from the folds of his cloak. The key made no sound as he inserted it into the lock and turned it – he’d had the foresight to oil it, and the locks themselves had been oiled just yesterday at the king’s order. The cell’s lock opened with a soft click and the man pushed the door, which swung inward silently on recently oiled hinges. He stepped inside, drawing a jewel-encrusted dagger from his cloak.
As he bent over the sleeping blacksmith, a hand shot up from the dirty blankets and grasped his dagger hand. Cold blue eyes glinted up at him and a harsh voice whispered, “Thanks for being my decoy while I escape.”
The black-clad man’s eyes widened. Decoy? It dawned on him that he’d been expected. The secret passage ground open behind him and the man’s eyes widened in understanding – the blacksmith had an ally who knew about the castle’s secret passage to the dungeon. An ally who had somehow anticipated the assassination and had access to his bedchambers. If he was bested, his corpse would fool the guards into thinking the blacksmith still lay sleeping.
The blacksmith exposed too-white teeth in a feral grin and sat up, still firmly grasping the dagger hand. As the blankets fell away, cold steel pressed against the assassin’s throat from behind as a dagger was drawn across it. The black-clad man gurgled, clutching his throat as he fell face forward. He rolled to the side to see his murderer… and stared into the misty green eyes of his wife, Queen Fiona.
Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop April 2023
Wednesday, 26 April 2023
Welcome to the Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop – speculative flash fiction from authors around the globe. Click below to take you to the next story. We all love comments, so stop by and say hello!
Royal Assassin by Vanessa Finaughty <– You are here
The Big Bad Wolf and the Easter Hare by Katharina Gerlach
Earthquake Aftermath by Bill Bush
The Gynnos Seeker Project by Juneta Key
Cursed by Barbara Lund
A Different Kind of Raise by Amy Keeley
Night At The Museum by Vanessa Wells
Flowers For Angela by Curtis Phills
Great story and nice twist!
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Thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Nice Twist. Enjoyed the story.
Thank you 🙂
Oooo, nice twist at the end! I was wondering if it was the king but dismissed it because of the consistent third-person. Wonderful story! Thank you for posting it. 😀
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I’m glad you enjoyed it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
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